I thought my first actual football post for Bring On The Cats should be something nice and easy. You know, dip my toes in the water, and check the temperature. No sense getting everyone all riled up out of the gates. In the spirit of that decision, I’m to start with a 5 part series on the K-State quarterbacks.
Over the last few days, I’ve locked myself in the situation room and scoured over hours of K-State football. My wife slides pancakes under the door every morning, and I dump my waste bucket out the window at night. This is serious business folks.
The first article in my 5 part series looks at the positives Alex Delton brings to the Kansas State Wildcats offense. My plan is to next look at Delton’s negatives, and then do the same for Skylar Thompson. I’ll wrap everything up by giving you my opinion on the K-State QB situation.
Asset in the run game
Fit in the offense is a crucial factor in quarterback play. When the quarterback fits the system, good things happen and Alex Delton fits the K-State offense. Now, I’m not sure what “tweeks” new offensive coordinator Andre Coleman is going to bring to the offense, but I doubt it strays much from the run heavy Wildcat offense of last year. K-State is going to get the ball in the hands of Alex Barnes, and Alex Delton at quarterback makes life much easier for Barnes.
This is what Delton does for Barnes:
If you’re wondering what a 75 yard run by the tailback is doing in an article about quarterbacks, take a look at this still.
The threat of Delton running the ball holds the backside of the Oklahoma defense. Delton is reading the backside linebacker on this play. The OU linebacker stays home on the backside instead of crashing down, so Delton gives the ball to Barnes. As an added bonus, the backside safety is also worried about the Delton run. Instead of waiting for the play to develop, he also crashes down and commits to the backside QB keeper, emptying out the middle of the field.
In essence, the threat of Alex Delton running the ball has eliminated two Sooner defenders. The run game is all about numbers and if you can take a linebacker and a safety out of the equation with one player, you’re chances of success go way up.
Another staple of the K-State offense is the quarterback power.
This is quarterback power run to perfection. The fullback is the first through the strong side A gap, and seals down on the strong side defensive end, next comes the weak side guard pulling through the hole to pick up the middle linebacker. Finally, Barnes is available to pick up a 3rd level block on the safety after following the guard through the hole.
One of the things that impresses me about Delton’s running style is his patience. This play takes time to develop, you’ve got to wait for the guard to pull, and then you’ve got to wait for the running back to make it through the hole as well. Often times, you’ll see the quarterback run into the back of the running back in the hole, because they lose patience. Delton shows great discipline in letting the play develop and following his blocks.
Delton is able to slow play the run because of his stellar burst. He can wait for a hole to develop and then hit it hard, instead of just running to where the hole is supposed to be and hoping it opens up.
Here is a still from the play:
Notice the two OU safeties I have circled. If this were a traditional hand off to Barnes, the strong side safety would be unaccounted for in the blocking scheme. Barnes would have to beat him for the first down.
Since this is QB power, however, Barnes is responsible for the strong side safety, leaving only the weak side safety (circled in red) unaccounted for in the blocking scheme. This puts the defense in a bind, because the weak side (or free) safety is also responsible for the deep middle in this defensive scheme. If he crashes hard at the snap, the next time K-State lines up to run QB power, they instead give Delton a RPO (run/pass option). If he see the safety crash, instead of running the ball, he pulls up and has his choice of receivers in single coverage on the outside. The threat of the pass gives Delton all the room he needs.
Opens Up Play Action Passing Game
Delton’s ability to run also opens up the play action passing game for the Wildcats. The defense starts selling out on the run, loses focus, and gets burned deep.
This is a perfect example of the play action pass with Delton:
The first thing to note is the K-State formation. It’s 3 wide receivers (trips) to the weak side of the formation with the strong side tight end attached to the line.
To counter this, and the Wildcat running game, Oklahoma is playing Cover 1. That means they are playing man across the board with one deep safety. In order to account for the 3 receivers, they have to walk their weak side safety down, and into man coverage on the slot receiver. Generally speaking, when you get a safety in man coverage, you look to attack that match up, and that’s exactly what K-State does on this play.
Here is a still shot of the critical moment in this play.
As you can see, the defense is all flowing to the strong side with the play fake. The deep safety in the cover 1 scheme is circled in red. He gets caught in the flow of the play as well and abandons the deep middle in order to chase the fake.
While this is going down, the real magic is happening on the back side of the formation. The safety covering the slot receiver gets caught looking in the backfield. He’s more concerned with Delton as a runner than a passer, and he thinks he has help deep middle anyway.
In this shot, you can see the split second where the safety stops his feet and Schoen blows by him. Delton delivers a decent deep ball, and Schoen makes the easy catch for big yards.
Delton’s running ability makes this play possible. Oklahoma is in Cover 1 because they are being eviscerated on the ground, and want to get more bodies to the ball. Furthermore, the safety gets caught looking in the backfield because he respects Delton’s ability to run. There is a split second where he worries about Delton slipping out the weak side and that’s all it takes for a big play.
Makes RPO’s Deadly
In a play with a run/pass option (RPO) the offensive line run blocks but the receivers still run their normal routes. The quarterback has the option to continue with the run if he likes what he sees, or he can pull up and throw the ball to the outside.
I mentioned the possibility of an RPO off QB power above and now I get to show you what it looks like.
This is a great example of an RPO. The line blocks for the quarterback power. The guard pulls around and the fullback leads the quarterback. Everything about this play screams quarterback run, including the personnel grouping with fullback Winston Dimel in the backfield.
To counter this look, Texas Tech appears to be in Cover 0, which means they are man across the board (playing off man in this case). There is no safety help in the middle of the field.
Texas Tech appears to have the run stuffed on this play, but having the pass option allows Delton to turn a run for loss into a touchdown pass. Texas Tech is playing soft man on the outside. The slot and boundary receiver run a nice little combo route where the slot receiver flares out, bringing his man along, and opening up the post for the boundary receiver. Delton pulls up and delivers the easy touchdown pass to the post.
Granted, Texas Tech’s coverage could be considered indifferent at best, but that also happens when you run the ball. The DB’s lose interest. It’s difficult to stay focused when you’re constantly having to cover receivers when the other team is running the ball.
Here is a great look at the play.
I circled the tight end (in orange) because it shows that that Tech is in 0 coverage. The safety (blue) has the tight end in man to man coverage. What’s really interesting is that Delton gets rid of the ball at the perfect time. A second later, and the play gets called back, because the tight end is 100% run blocking still, and could possibly be called for blocking past the line of scrimmage.
This also gives you a great view of what Delton sees on this play, and why he goes with the pass option. Tech has the run stuffed, but Delton sees the boundary receiver wide open on the post. Not only is he open, but he also notices that the middle of the field is wide open. Delton delivers an accurate pass on the run, and leads the receiver into the open space, and the touchdown.